India has a billion people and it shows. They are everywhere. The masses of people you find in the street here, one would only find in Zurich if there was a festival of sorts. Many people think that having that many people is a problem, since you have to create jobs for all of them. This is of course not true in a well functioning economy; people create demand and create jobs and all is well. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite true in India.
India might be on their way to become a new IT superpower, but there are still large masses of people with little education who all need (low paid) jobs. Employing these people seems to be a responsibility that falls to all businesses and that goes beyond the normally very active Indian desire to make a profit. So if you order food, don’t be surprised that there will be two guys doing the delivery. One carrying the food and handling the transaction, the other being the ‘come along guy’.
Automation of course poses new challenges to this system. India is modernizing and Indians want to see all the new cool stuff. But it tends to cut jobs and that is something that India cannot afford at this point, which leads to an interesting phenomenon: manned automation.
So today we went to a crafts village around here. They charge a small entrance fee, presumably to keep the masses out – any park like area that can be entered for free will soon be taken over by crowds of picnicking Indian families. They have a little gate where you could swipe the ticket to get in. But it doesn’t work like that. There’s a guy who takes your ticket, looks at it, then swipes it, you walk through the gate that now opens and the guy tears your ticket.
And this is what you see all over. They have the same machine at home in the supermarket to weigh fruit, but there is a lady who does it for you. In the office there is a guy who makes sure that the lights over desks that aren’t used are off – you go to the toilet, you come back and it is dark. You move your hands and he turns them on again. I suppose on some level even the fact that almost any car you rent here comes with a driver is an example of the same principle.
Apparently there when they introduced the first automatic drinks dispenser in India, it was announced with great fanfare. The actual implementation was also very Indian. Not one or two guys were manning the machine, but three. One would take your money and exchange it for a token, which you would then give to the second guy, who would insert it into the machine. The machine would then cough up the drink, which would then be handed to you by the third guy.